By Dayo Benson Editor Politics,Law/Human Rights
These, certainly, are not the best of times for President Donald Trump. Like most world leaders, the 45th President of the United States is grappling with an existential crises. A pestilence, a plague and a pandemic.
Science has not established the exact origin of Coronavirus COVID-19, at least, World Health Organization (WHO). However, President Trump describes it as “China virus”.
He insists the characterization is not racist. “No, it’s no racist, it came from China”, he told journalists in White House Tuesday March 17. It was a Presidential pushback to China’s earlier allegation that the virus came from U.S. soldiers. For International Relations experts, COVID-19 is a global virus that requires global, rather than individual country’s solution.
“Other countries have a lot to learn from China, it is a battle no country can win alone”, says an American International Relations expert.
Trump has picked up the gauntlet. He describes himself as a “war time President”. This, no doubt, is the toughest battle of his presidency. Nonetheless, a political battle is ahead. Outcome of the current one, may impact the one to come. United States, he says, is fighting “an invisible enemy and we are going to defeat the invisible enemy ”.
Already, the ravaging enemy is infecting the population exponentially. All the 50 States have confirmed cases. Nationwide, casualty figures are climbing.
Vice President Mike Pence, at the daily briefing Saturday, March 21, said there were 19,343 confirmed cases. Other sources put the figure at over 20,000. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official figure of confirmed cases was 15,219 , with over 260 deaths recorded Friday, March 20,2020.
This was a spike from 8,700 reported confirmed cases March 18, with 149 killed. Daily, more are succumbing to the suffocating clutch of Coronavirus, there is no let up. A family of 7 in New Jersey lost 4 members in one day. New York is the epicenter of the virus with over 10,000 confirmed cases Saturday. A major increase from the previous day figure of over 4,000. President Trump made a Major Disaster Declaration for New York, the first time in U.S. history.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, agrees with Trump that the current situation is akin to war. “We are fighting the same war, we are in the same trench and his actions demonstrate that”, Cuomo said. In order to prosecute the war, President Trump invoked Defence Production Act.
The Act, which came into effect after the World War II, empowers the President to command mass productions of defence materials. In this instance, mass production of nose masks and ventilators.
Two Naval Hospital Ships with 1,000 beds would be deployed in New York in anticipation of a surge in cases of patients.
The hospital ships are expected to arrive in coming days. Treatment and surgery can be performed on board. The governor had appealed to the Federal Government for help.
New York City has the largest population in the country. Additionally, the Military Engineering Corp is expected to assist the City build more hospitals. Available spaces, including closed hospitals, abandoned dormitories and old cinema houses are to be converted. Governor Cuomo said bed spaces would be created inside Westchester County Center because of the pandemic prevalent in the area. The county has recorded the highest number of confirmed cases so far.
These measures are not unexpected in the current situation which Trump described as “an uncharted territory” while fielding questions from journalists Thursday, during daily briefing.
Late in the evening, California Governor Gavin Newsom , in a short broadcast, ordered the 40 million population of the state to stay at home. The order is to stave off half of the population from being infected with the deadly virus in the next eight weeks. California counts among the largest economies in the world. The governors of Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Oregon have followed California’s footstep. More states are likely to be on lockdown as the scourge ripples across the country.
Ahead of the stay at home order to stem the virus spread, schools, businesses, public places and non essential services have been shut. For students, learning will be done remotely. Some states are providing digital learning materials to facilitate the process. Students who rely on school meals for breakfast and lunch pick up their meals at designated centers daily across counties. Among few exceptions, only hospitals, gas stations, fire service, police station and grocery stores are allowed to operate. For effect, violators may face civil fines. Some states threaten criminal charges.
The every bustling New York City cut an unfamiliar image of itself last week. Streets, subways and stores were deserted as people adjust to new culture of social distancing to stay safe.
It is same sombre story at the political front. All activities have been put on hold. Democratic establishment has suspended its remaining presidential primaries. Ohio opted out of March 17 Big Tuesday primaries to prevent spread of the pestilence. The late poll postponement at the behest of the governor created confusion among voters and poll workers.
Apart from dead and those still fighting to live, there are many other victims of the virus. The crushing economic impacts on businesses and individuals are telling.
Jobs are slipping away every second. Several businesses are folding up and workers are routinely laid off. An unprecedented helpless Americans have filed for unemployment insurance.
In New York, it was the worst week at the stock market on Wall Street. As Coronavirus spreads, the economy shrinks. Citizens and businesses await the government promised lifeline.